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Petition filed against Twitter in Delhi High Court for ‘non-compliance’ with IT Rules 2021

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“I have filed this petition because Twitter has ignored the country’s laws and has prevented me from exercising my rights. In the IT Rules 2021, which came into force on May 25, it has been laid down that significant social media intermediaries should appoint a grievance redressal officer based in India, and who should respond to my grievances within 24 hours and resolve the issue within 15 days,” Amit Acharya, the advocate who filed public interest litigation at Delhi High Court against the micro-blogging platform told MediaNama earlier today.

Acharya’s petition alleges that Twitter has not complied with the new IT Rules 2021 as he claims that he was unable to find details of a resident grievance officer on the microblogging platform’s website. The advocate who practices in the Delhi HC and Supreme Court, urged the HC to direct Twitter to appoint a resident grievance officer — as he claims is mandated under the IT Rules 2021 — and to implement other sections of the new rules. Acharya has named Union of India (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology), Twitter Inc and Twitter Communication India Private Limited (TCIPL) as respondents in the petition.

“They were given 3 months to implement the rules but Twitter ignored them. In place of a grievance redressal officer based in India, Twitter currently has an office based in the United States of America. I tried raising my grievances, but I was not successful. My request to Delhi High Court that strict directions should be given to Twitter to comply with the IT Rules 2021,” Acharya added.

On MAy 27, Twitter, while talking about the IT Rules 2021 for the first time said that the platform was concerned about the requirement to make the “compliance officer” criminally liable for content on the platform. The microblogging website also requested 3 months extension for implementing the rule and added that it accepts grievances from users and law under its existing grievance redressal channel.

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The mention of the existing grievance redressal channel and its officer Jeremy Kessel, based in San Francisco, California, also finds a mention in Amit Acharya’s petition. The PIL accessed by MediaNama read, “It is submitted by the Petitioner that while looking for the details of Resident Grievance Officer, Petitioner has found on the page of Respondent No. 3 that it has appointed a US resident i.e. Jeremy Kessel as Grievance officer which is not in true sense implementation of rule 4 of Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules 2021.”

When contacted regarding the matter, a Twitter Spokesperson declined to comment.

Acharya had raised grievances on 2 tweets, one by a TMC politician

In the PIL copy obtained and reviewed by MediaNama, the advocate, Acharya, who is Twitter user, said that he came across two “defamatory, false and untrue tweets’ made by two verified users on May 26. Acharya alleged that the tweets from MP Mahua Moitra on Delhi Police’s notice to Twitter, and of journalist Swati Chaturvedi on former Chief Justice of India Sharav Arvind Bode were “offensive and objectionable” in nature.

The petition read, “It is submitted that the Petitioner wanted to raise grievance against these offensive and objectionable tweet at the Appropriate Forum i.e. Resident Grievance Officer under Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules 2021. However the Petitioner was unable to find the contact details of the Resident Grievance Officer on the website of Respondent No. 3 under Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules 2021 for raising his grievance.”

Prayer of the PIL

  • Appointment of a grievance officer: The petitioner wants Delhi High court to issue a writ or direction Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Union of India to pass necessary instruction order to Twitter Communication India Private Limited (TCIPL) and Twitter Inc to appoint a resident grievance officer “under Rule 4 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules 3021. Acharya urged the Court to pass an order directly to Twitter Communication India Private Limited and Twitter to appoint a resident grievance officer.
  • Follow the IT Rules 2021: The petitioner also wants the Delhi High Court to issue any appropriate writ against Union of India and Twitter “to discharge their executive, statutory and all other obligations in relation to Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules 2021 without any delay”

MeitY urges Twitter to comply with Indian laws

On May 27, hours after Twitter said that it finds provisions of the IT Rules 2021 — especially that the Chief Compliance Officer would be criminally liable for content on the platform, Ministry of Electronics, Information and Technology said that Twitter was undermining the country’s legal system. Twitter needs to stop beating around the bush and comply with the laws of the land. Law making and policy formulations is the sole prerogative of the sovereign and Twitter is just a social media platform and it has no locus in dictating what India’s legal policy framework should be,” the Ministry said in a press release.

Twitter had also said that the visit of Delhi Police to its offices to serve a notice in connection with the alleged Congress toolkit, was intimidating in nature. Delhi Police responded in a detailed press statement saying that the micro blogging’s statement was designed to impede a lawful inquiry.

Earlier, Delhi Police had sent a notice to Twitter seeking clarification, after the social media platform tagged tweets by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra and others on Congress’ alleged toolkit as “manipulated media”. Delhi Police who is currently conducting an investigation into the toolkit case approached Twitter with the notice because “It appears that Twitter has some information that is not known to us on basis of which they’ve classified it as such (manipulated media),” a Delhi police was quoted as saying by ANI.

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